HOUSTON (BP) -- Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention dealt, as expected, with the hot-button issue of the Boy Scouts' new membership policy, but also passed a series of resolutions expressing compassion for the victimized and vulnerable.
In two sessions June 12 at the annual meeting in Houston, messengers passed 12 resolutions in either unanimous or overwhelming votes, including one voicing disappointment in the May decision by the Boy Scouts of America to open their membership to openly homosexual youth. Messengers declined to call for churches to boycott BSA.
The resolution expressed Southern Baptists' "continued opposition" to the new membership policy and urged removal of the executive and board leaders who also tried without succeeding to liberalize the BSA's leadership guidelines. However, the statement also supported families and churches in determining what their relationship to the Boy Scouts should be and urged those who remain in the BSA to share the gospel of Jesus with boys and seek the revocation of the new membership rule.
Resolutions Committee Chairman Steve Lemke, provost and ethics professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a news conference that the BSA resolution "is not against any boys."
"We want to minister to the boys," Lemke said, describing the resolution as "a balanced, middle way that tries to state what most Baptists would believe and respect the congregational autonomy that we believe."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told reporters at the news conference, "I think many in our culture were expecting a caustic response to the Boy Scouts of America decision."
Instead, Moore said, the statement "is a careful, Gospel-focused, balanced resolution that expresses our convictions as Baptists about human sexuality, human flourishing and also speaks to the larger question of our mission as churches."
(Read related BSA story here
Lemke acknowledged the statement on the Boy Scouts was the big news, but he said the Resolution Committee members "were really excited about the resolutions related to compassion ministries." These resolutions:
-- Call on churches to protect children from sexual abuse and to pray for abuse victims;
-- Urge Southern Baptists to become informed about human trafficking, how to combat it and how to provide Christian ministry to its victims;
-- Affirm the "immeasurable value to God" of people with "mental health concerns" and oppose "all stigmatization and prejudice" toward those with such problems (Read related story here
-- Express opposition to laws that may result in health-care rationing for senior adults and encouraged ministry to the elderly, and
-- Endorse possible probation and parole for some nonviolent offenders and called for churches to seek the "moral and spiritual transformation" of prisoners.
Messengers also approved resolutions:
-- Calling for religious liberty for college students, military chaplains and service members, and religious liberty for employers regarding the health care they provide their employees;
-- Encouraging churches to pray "confidently, regularly, and fervently" for the president of the United States and other governmental leaders;
-- Urging all Southern Baptists "to tithe cheerfully to their local churches;"
-- Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Woman's Missionary Union and commending the organization for its faithful support of and involvement in missions.
-- Expressing appreciation for Billy Graham, who will turn 95 years old in November, and his evangelistic team and encouraging churches to participate in his organization's "My Hope" outreach campaign this fall, and
-- Thanking God and all those who helped with this year's meeting.
Lemke said Southern Baptists "sort of have a litany of ethical issues -- and they're abortion and homosexuality and three or four others -- that we talk about a lot, and I don't think we talk enough about some other things," even though Southern Baptist are ministering to the victimized and vulnerable, he told reporters.
"And without renouncing these other ethical beliefs that we have historically had, there is an interest in issues of justice and issues of compassion, and I think that we as Southern Baptists need to voice those in a more articulate way," Lemke said, acknowledging young people especially are concerned about those issues.
Moore also expressed an emphasis on the suffering.
"There was a great emphasis on the vulnerable, hurting" in those resolutions, which called on churches "to be the presence of Christ to those people."
"I think the mental illness resolution is phenomenal. It speaks to removing a stigma among people in our churches who are suffering with mental illness and also with those who are caring for them in ways that I think will have ramifications (possibly) for decades," Moore said.
Nine resolutions were submitted to the committee for consideration.
In addition to Lemke, other members of the Resolutions Committee were: Matthew Arbo, member, Redeemer Fellowship, Kansas City, Mo., and assistant professor of Christian ethics, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tom Biles, member, Idlewild Baptist Church, Lutz, Fla., and interim pastor, First Baptist Church, Dade City, Fla.; David Crosby, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, New Orleans; David Dykes, senior pastor, Green Acres Baptist Church, Tyler, Texas; Richard Gaines, senior pastor, Consolidated Baptist Church, Lexington, Ky.; Galen Jones, church planting pastor, New Destiny Christian Fellowship, Duluth, Ga., and church planting consultant and state missionary, Georgia Baptist Convention; Manpoong Dennis Kim, pastor, Global Mission Church, Silver Spring, Md.; Joe Wright, member, First Baptist Church, Dyersburg, Tenn., and director of missions, Dyer Baptist Association, Dyersburg; and Carol Yarber, member, First Baptist Church, Malakoff, Texas.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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